Founded by industry veterans, Trevor Lui and Stephanie Lui-Valentim, Quell will look to tackle systemic inequities found in today’s hospitality industry
The food, drink and hospitality industry in Canada is facing a serious problem. Systemic inequities and invisible but ever-present barriers have impacted the faces we see representing the hospitality industry – which are not reflective of this country’s diverse and richly multicultural population. Siblings Trevor Lui and Stephanie Lui-Valentim experienced this first-hand and decided to inspire change. The result? Quell, a new talent agency aimed at fostering meaningful opportunities and inclusive work for its diverse talent.
“I’ve been a part of the food industry for decades – having worked in it and around it, both as an entry-level employee and as an executive. I’ve always been hyper-aware of the barriers that make it difficult for women and people in the BIPOC and LGBTQ2S+ community to achieve the opportunities they deserve,” said Trevor Lui, co-founder, Quell. “We started Quell to create more meaningful opportunities for food, drink and lifestyle talent who have historically been underrepresented. We want to redefine and create a more equitable and inclusive community within the hospitality industry, and beyond.”
Looking at the food and drink industry, both in Canada and globally, the statistics are staggering:
- In Toronto, while women make up nearly half of all restaurant workers, only 20% are chefs – with a mere 6% in the head chef role. The numbers are even lower for female chefs of colour.1
- The wine industry is overwhelmingly white. In a recent survey of 3,100 winemakers, 84% of respondents were white, and only 2 percent identified as Black or African.2
- A study of 133 fine-dining restaurants found 81% of management positions were held by white employees. 28% of workers denied a promotion cited race as the main reason.3
“The chefs, drink experts and lifestyle content creators we represent are industry leaders, recognized for their important contributions to the food and drink space. We’re extremely proud and ready to partner them with clients who value their expertise and want to amplify their voices,” said Stephanie Lui-Valentim, co-founder, Quell. “We’ll be challenging our clients every day to go beyond one-time initiatives, and to make diversity and inclusion a core business function. We know businesses understand the need for systemic change but many just don’t know where to start. We’re ready to encourage and usher in potentially difficult but important, productive dialogue.”
Quell’s current talent roster includes:
- Bashir Munye, Chef, Food Advocate, Educator
- Brigitte Truong, Lifestyle Specialist, Content Creator
- Evelyn Chick, Certified Beverage and Hospitality Expert
- La-toya Fagon, Chef, Celebrity Caterer
- Joshna Maharaj, Chef, Activist
- Tawfik Shehata, Chef, Educator
- Christina Veira, Certified Beverage and Hospitality Expert
- Ryan Hinkson, Food Culturalist, Creator of @EatFamous
To ensure they remain accountable to their mandate, Quell has taken a unique approach by forming an ad hoc advisory board made up of members that represent Canada’s diverse population. Members include:
- Tracy Moore, host of Cityline and entrepreneur
- Leslie Ng, Partner, Lecours Wolfson
- Tasha Chin, Founder, SparkThat Inc.
- Brione Wishart, Founder, Artlee Agency
- Sean Beckingham, President, Branding & Buzzing
As part of their mission, the team will also focus on fostering and providing support for the future generation of the hospitality workforce. Specifically, Quell will collaborate with high schools in regions with socio-economic challenges, offering among other things, dedicated long-term mentorship opportunities and annual bursaries for students interested in pursuing careers in the hospitality industry.
For more information on Quell, visit their website www.quellnow.com or follow on Instagram @quell.now.